Only the self liberated from selfishness can bring about the new earth.
Selfish selfhood is a prison. Our prejudices and attachments to wealth and power form the walls of this prison. Our activism will never succeed unless we simultaneously leave the prison of the “false self” through mindful presence and an open heart. To transform the political and economic systems that currently dominate our lives—systems that have been skewed by the power and influence of profit above all else—we must also focus on inner transformation.
We can root this difficult work in prayers such as this one from my Sufi tradition: “O my God, you are peace, and from you comes peace, and our return is to you, to peace.” What I offer here is an extended meditation on this prayer.
The current economic system is the vehicle of the false self insofar as its only criterion of value is the bottom line of profitability. As a result, it is a blind machine that consumes life and spews garbage. The corporations that rule this system are a result of the alienated self because they are driven to make decisions solely on a logic of their own short-term profiteering rather than on the long-term well-being of human society. For example, they reap fracking profits while escaping the incalculable costs of the destruction that fracking leaves in its wake.
What permits this efficient machinery of death and corruption, this perpetual war, this molestation of nature, this sabotage of health, this desecration of life? The root cause of this desecration is our economic system’s detachment from empathy and reality. This society-wide detachment creates echoes of detachment in all of us as individuals, as well, imprisoning us in selfishness.
The system is unsustainable because it prioritizes financial profits regardless of any cost to the environment and human well-being. It fails to see and acknowledge its own demise. The corporate death machine has no empathy. It turns people into objects. It normalizes violence and cruelty. It blames and victimizes the weak. It projects its own evil onto others. What it considers normality is suicidal.
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